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An Eye for Music

By Amy Wald Photos By Jay B Sauceda Issue Mar 2010 Neighborhood All

Self-proclaimed music geeks, the crew at The Decoder Ring Design Concern, a triumvirate specializing in concert posters and branding services, is committed to translating musicians’ visions onto paper. Whether screen-printing lyric-inspired images layer by layer, or revamping businesses’ logos, they have cemented their position as leaders in Austin’s design industry.

The company began in 2004, when designer Christian Helms joined established rock poster power duo Geoff Peveto and Paul Fucik. Together, the multi-media dream team began carving a unique niche for themselves on the border between corporate America and the live music capital of the world. Their services include everything from developing concert posters to preparing stage settings.

In addition to being a one-stop shop for the promotional needs of both budding and established bands, The Decoder Ring has mastered the art of branding. The team provides both companies and musicians with packaging representative of their core identities. On the corporate end, Helms, Peveto, and Fucik have worked with such high-profile clients as the New York Times, HBO, MTV, Toyota, and Hasbro. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, they have lent their creative talents to acts like Modest Mouse, Spoon, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, and the Decemberists.

“There’s this cool rift of really high-end, corporate clients and interesting, organic bands. We like that juxtaposition a lot,” says Helms. “It puts everyone on their toes.”

That professional duality extends to the inner workings of the studio as well. Helms, a journalism and design school graduate who began his career with an internship at Pentagram New York, brought formalized training methods to the self-taught Peveto and Fucik.

“It was like down and dirty meets more conceptual, high-end design work,” Helms says of the beginning of The Decoder Ring’s partnership. “We’ve been able to push each other in the opposite direction and create this cool mash-up of two different styles.”

Nevertheless, one thing the guys can always agree on is the importance of staying true to their vision.

“We’ve been very careful to purposely stay small so that we can only take on the projects we love, rather than focusing on the corporate x, y, and z that no one’s really excited about, but that you do to keep the lights on,” explains Helms.

While The Decoder Ring founders channel the underground, more casual side of the Austin music scene, they also transition between commercial, mainstream clients and local, alternative markets with remarkable ease, catering to the corporate world without compro- mising their unique ideals. In fact, they even have their hands in the restaurant business—Helms and Peveto own Frank, a downtown eatery for which The Decoder Ring also did the branding.

No matter how their pursuits may vary, at the heart of it all is a passion and willingness to take risks. They’re con- stantly pushing themselves to create the most unique products possible.

“To a fault, we like to push things out of the expected, normal realm of what you know,” says Helms. “We got hired to do a promotional poster for the Decemberists when they weren’t particularly well-known yet, and we wanted to communicate the kind of antiquated, throwback sound that they had. So instead of printing the poster on paper, we printed it on vintage piano scrolls.”

From posters that fold into origami cranes to concert advertisements on the covers of old Reader’s Digests, Helms, Peveto, and Fucik rock the rock poster universe, bringing both brands and bands to life as they weave their way through the high and low ends of the art, music, and business worlds. And thanks to their ability to visually capture the energy, exhilaration, and spiritual abandonment that is the live music experience, The Decoder Ring ensures that their musician clients will live on in print as well as song.


Comments (4)

  1. Mary Gawron says:

    it is good to see more information about poster art in Austin. it has been hidden from some of us. I have sent you a couple of e-mails about Leszek Zebrowski http://www.zebrowski-poster.com/ who will be visiting here from Poland for SXSW. Was hoping he could meet with other poster artists here in the US. he will be here the week of March 16-19 and from March 22-27. Thanks.
    Mary Gawron

  2. Tim Helms says:

    The work that these guys do is unbelievable and so very creative. I am proud to know them as a business group and as individuals.
    They rock.

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  4. Christina Karimi says:

    @ Mary-tell Leszek Zebrowski to stop by Flatstock at the Convention Center March 18-20. He’ll have a chance to meet many poster designers there.

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